Orkestar Bordurka (Orkestar Bordurka, 2009)

Orkestar Bordurka are a tounge-in-cheek band from Finland who specialize in festive Balkan music.  On their self-titled CD, they assume the guise of exotic foreigners (presumably Eastern bloc) bringing their party to bear on the masses -- except, of course, that theirs is the kind of "party" that people are happy to have imposed on them.  It's a silly affair, complete with fake accents and exhortations to dance that could have gone without saying, but when the band kick into full gear they are a force to be reckoned with.

The band consists of Roope Aarnio (guitar, bouzouki, vocals), Topi Korhonen (electric guitar, horns, vocals), Oskari Lehtonen (drums, vocals), Hannu Oskala (accordion, tuba, vocals), Sara Puljula (bass and vocals, also from the band Gjallarhorn), and Jarno Tastula (violin, mandolin, lead vocals). The tracks on Orkestar Bordurka alternate between songs and instrumentals, and the overall style owes quite a bit more to the traditional music of Greece, Hungary, and Bulgaria than it does to the traditional music of Finland. So naturally, most of the singing is in English. But while I made a comment when I reviewed the recent Vilma Timonen Quartet CD Forward that it benefited from more vocals, I think the opposite is true of Orkestar Bordurka. The English lyrics are tacky, at best, but the instrumental breaks are everything you'd want from a Balkan recording. Tracks like "Mountain Love," "Mythos," and "An Eyropeyishe Kolomeyke" roar with a frenzied spirit, while the slightly more subdued and extended "Diabolo" develops beautifully over nearly five minutes.

Orkestar Bordurka are an unusual band in the sense that, if anything, they don't take themselves seriously enough.  Their goofiness can be endearing, but it also sometimes gets in the way of the otherwise excellent musicianship.  Still, they could hold their own with the best Balkan-flavored bands in New York City, which is actually saying quite a lot.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott

A sampling of Orkestar Bordurka's performance at the 2009 Kaustinen Folk Festival

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